What Do You Need to Test Drive a Car?

Car shopping can be a stressful experience, especially if you're new to the process. But a little forehand knowledge can go a long way.


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Car shopping can be a stressful experience, particularly for those new to the process. Many shoppers may wonder: what do you need to test drive a car? A little forehand knowledge and some planning can go a long way in alleviating anxiety. Below we outline what you need to bring, and what you should know to be prepared to test drive a car at a dealership.

Bring the right documents

Requirements for test drives vary from dealership to dealership, but typically you'll just need a valid driver's license, so be sure to bring that along. It's also not uncommon for dealers to ask for your phone number or to make a copy of your license for their records, so don't let those requests throw you off—they're a standard part of what you need to have to test drive a car.

Dealers are required to have their own insurance, so you don't need to have your insurance card with you for a test drive. However, some dealers might make you sign a waiver before a test drive, in which case you might be on the hook for any damages that happen to the car while it's in your care. These situations are rare, but you'll want to call your insurance agent if they happen to arise.

Familiarize yourself with the car that interests you

It may sound basic, but shoppers often head to the dealer without much knowledge about the car they are interested in buying. This can be troublesome as trim levels may vary greatly within model lines, and stand-alone options are becoming more and more commonplace. If you haven't narrowed down the specific trim and options you're interested in, you could spend hours at the dealer test driving various models with different equipment levels. Moreover, salespeople are more inclined to show you higher-priced models, so you might be setting yourself up for a big disappointment when you learn that the features you loved on the test drive are only available on the most expensive trim (and is far more money than you wanted to spend).

The car buying process has come a long way over the last few years — thanks in part to the advancement of online shopping tools — but there's still some inherent stress baked in. Knowing beforehand what you need to test drive a car can go a long way in easing the car buying experience.

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Drew Johnson
I have been a professional automotive enthusiast since 2007, featured on several nationally-recognized sites. I attended Miami University, where I earned a business degree. Car nut at heart.